This past Saturday, I had the honor to attend my very first Spring Garden Show!
It's funny to me to say that last sentence, because five years ago - I had 0 interest in plants or gardening... And now I am absolutely enthralled. I'm not sure if it's being a home owner, my love indoor plants and greener, or the fact that I'm so amazed by God's creation and nature. Whatever it is, I'm absolutely loving learning about gardening and plants, and sharing what I've learned with others!
So, I thought I would kick things off with a recap on this lovely day and my first ever garden show!
The show was put on by a local soil company called Soil3, which makes organic compost for your garden. A rep from them reached out to me asked if I wanted some of their soil for free (heck yes) and then if I wanted to attend a spring Garden Show they were putting on (another easy heck yes)!
So I called up a friend and invited her to join me, and Saturday we took the trek up from South Atlanta to North Georgia, more specifically Silver City Farms (an absolutely beautiful location) in Cummings where we'd attend the show!
Photo by Soil3/Silver City Farms.
The weather was an absolute dream - just about the most perfect sunny, 70 degrees, with a light breeze, and no humidity, that you can possibly imagine.
So to be honest, I wasn't really quite sure what to expect at my first garden show! Like I've mentioned, this was a first for me, and as a novice gardener, I wasn't sure what to expect or what I was getting into.
But it was amazing!
Immediately when we arrived, there was one speaker finishing up and another speaker getting ready to go up. Brie Arthur was the first speaker, and sadly we didn't make her talk on "Foodscaping techniques for Beauty and Bounty" but I know it had to be wonderful! I heard the last little bit and she said she had over 150 pounds of tomatoes harvested last year from one tomato plant! Talk about plant lady goals.
The second speaker (and the first one we heard) was supposed to be Katy Ross from Night Song Native Nursery (of which I bought the most plants from - including a few shrubs I'm really stoked about) but for some reason, someone else spoke for her. The topic was on "Beyond the Vegetable Garden - Using edible native plants in the landscape for human and wildlife use" and it was really interesting!
Here's a picture of the handout that I thought was really helpful - it talks about native plants to Georgia (so if you're not in this state, then maybe it's not as helpful) but I loved her tips on the side for when to plant, where they do best, and what's beneficial about these plants!
She walked us through the list, and these were the plants I had put a little * to purchase when I had the chance (and I was able to do so right after this talk). The plants I was curious to try out were:
- BeautyBerry (link to learn more)
- Mulberry (link to learn more)
- Elderberry (link to learn more)
- Bee Balm (link to learn more)
- Mountain Mint (link to learn more)
You can read more about these in the above photo, but mostly what interested me is their benefits on both a human level and for all the insects! I didn't realize - but a statistic was shared that there are 97% of beneficial insects and only 3% of insects are considered pests. So crazy to think that we have so many beneficial insects, and yet usually view them all as pests.
As a person who avidly hates mosquitos and gets eaten alive, had her pumpkins eaten by squash bugs and fake lady bugs (aka the Lady Beatle) amongst other bugs, I definitely thought the percentage of pests to beneficial insects was higher. So that was definitely interesting to learn otherwise!
I also learned that wasps are actually beneficial. Again, I always figured these were a nuisance (because they get into our house, are scary looking and create nests on your home) but they're actually great for gardeners! They will eat the caterpillars that are harmful to your plants (like the kind that overnight will destroy your once beautiful and flourishing edible).
It's still kind weird/hard for me to think that I'm encouraging/hoping for one bug to eat another (cause I'm totally the person that uses a piece of paper and a cup to move a spider cause I don't like to kill bugs), but I have to remind myself that it's part of God's plan in nature and the circle of life.
Anyway, totally digressing.
So the first talk we heard was really interesting, and had me even more pumped to start my garden this spring!
After the talk, we went shopping and checked out the local vendors - our first stop (unintentionally) was the Night Song Native Nursery booth, and she had all the plants on my list! So I snagged these, excitedly and nervously (praying "Lord, please don't let these shrubs die in the car or by my planting them incorrectly) and I will probably remain slightly anxious until I get some fruit on them next year :p
But at least I got to support a local nursery, and try something new (shrubs) that I've never planted before! I'll let you know how it goes (and will likely chronicle the whole thing on Instagram Stories next weekend when I go to plant).
I did pick up a few more plants from another nursery - the second nursery is actually where I found the bee balm (which is also called Menarda or bergamot, if you're more familiar with that name), some pineapple sage (legit smells like a pineapple and it's heavenly) and then some orange mint (again, smells delicious and will make the absolute best infused water this summer).
After we picked out a bunch of plants and put them in my car (with the windows rolled down), we checked out the raised bed garden competition. There were so many innovative ideas! There were pots that sort of self-water your plants, a compost raised bed that used a German technique called Hugelkultur (super fascinating and something I want to try) and then a raised bed garden that was handicap accessible and great for people who might need help with stimulating their senses (this company created a sensory garden - I wish I grabbed a photo or video, because it was the coolest). Here's a link to learn more about sensory gardens if you're curious.
Anyways, by the time we finished walking around the vendor booth, talking to the raised bed groups and putting our plans away, we had some time to grab lunch and then it was time for the last and final speaker! It was crazy to me how quickly the day had flown by at this point.
So for lunch, we ate at a local food truck (I wish I grabbed a photo of the name - but it was delicious). Always love supporting local and eating food locally grown! I had a black bean burger sans bun (they were out - cause I'm a bread girl and don't normally skip), my friend had locally grown pork tacos and then we split sweet potato fries covered in a maple aioli... Soooo drool worthy and delicious!
The final speaker - Joe Gardener - was probably my favorite! I literally took a toooooon of notes, as he was really knowledgeable (and had the topic I was most interested in - raised bed gardening). His talk was called "Starting and maintaining a thriving organic raised bed vegetable garden" and he was such a helpful resource!
Joe was on a TV show that aired on DIY Network called "Growing a Greener World," where each episode specialize on one specific topic from start to finish. For example, one episode would be entirely on tomatoes, from growing to harvesting! If you want to watch the episodes, you can watch them on their website here! I'm definitely planning on doing some binging so I can set myself up for the best success with my raised beds and edibles this year... And hopefully, if you're interested in organic raised bed gardening, you can learn a few things too.
Joe also has his own set of resources via a YouTube channel, podcast and blog (again, I'll be checking these out/binging and would recommend you do the same if you're looking for a great gardening resource).
So I'll try to keep it brief, but here are a few of the high level tips I learned during his talk:
- Probably the most important things for raised bed gardens are the soil, irrigation (water), mulch and insects (they can be such a good thing).
- For raised bed gardens, Joe's tip was to till the ground before you plant your raised bed, so that if roots want to grow deeper than the bed, they can do so easily!
- It's important to diversify your garden, so you have natural pollinators and natural predators protecting your garden.
- It doesn't matter the direction you face your raised beds, just that the beds are in full sun and the tallest plants are facing north (so they don't cast a show and this block the sun on the shorter plants).
- It's important to have a physical barrier to keep animals (deer, bunnies, moles) out of your garden. His suggestion was to have chicken wire dug into the ground and partially sticking up your fence to protect from these plant loving predators!
- Your compost pile can be in the sun or the shade - it doesn't matter! The heat that comes from compost comes from the breaking down of the organic materials.
Twice a year, top dress your plants! This is done best a few weeks before you plant your seeds, to prepare the soil and make it super nutrient rick.
- Mulch is really great to hold in the soil moisture and regulate the temperature, as well as keeps diseases from the soil, IN The soil, and not on the plants.
- Just be careful when buying mulch that you get it from a good source, as sometimes mulch can come from old decks that were made with lethal products that can be really harmful if you're using with plants you'll be eating!
- Beer kills slugs that attack plants - just pour a little beer into a cup and you;ll be amazed at how many slugs will be in there! I've never heard of this, but my friend totally vouched for it and said this trick has helped save her Hosta plants.
- When planting seeds, put a dome over them (I use seran wrap - more on this in a future blog post) and then once the seeds germinate and pop up, you can remove the dome and they'll continue to thrive!
He also recommended the book, "The Weedless Garden." Basically he said the secret to not having weeds is not to overwater your plants! This is also the reason a lot of time plants die... I've learned from experience. It seems counter-intuitive (at least to me) but plants (especially indoor ones) need less water than you think!
But I suppose the opposite is true, and if you never water your plants, that's equally bad and will equally kill them. So it's all about balance!
But on overwatering, I will say that this proved very true for me! I can totally vouch for because last summer we had an excessive amount of rain and I had the hardest time keeping the weeds by my pumpkins at bay... And that's partially why I think my pumpkins died (because weeds = bad bugs = bad news for your plants).
I know that's a lot of random information, but it's the majority of what I could capture while quickly typing on my phone. Again, lots of little tidbits of helpful information on gardening - which really just further sparked my interest and desire to learn more!
Overall, today was really incredible and a wonderful first experience at a garden show! I'm really looking forward to starting my first raised bed garden (hopefully) next weekend, and can't wait to share more of what I learn with y'all as I go along!
Do you have any questions or is there anything you'd like me to share more specifically about when it comes to starting your own garden? Happy to tell you what I've learned so far, or what I'm planning to do.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Allison from Soil3 for this wonderful opportunity to attend my first Garden Show! Also huge shout out to Erin of Erin E Martin Photography for being my garden show buddy and nerding out with me over these fun garden facts!
Also, I didn't take many photos (I feel like I'm out of practice) but here's a few that I did manage to snap when not swooning over all the plants, gardens, expert tips and tricks!